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Getting An Early Start In Government

Zach Madden

Zach Madden got an early start on his career. In fact, he found it when he was just in fourth grade. Literally.

Madden, a 2011 alumnus of Sheboygan Falls High School who now works for Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers as director of legislative affairs, says it all started with a fourth grade field trip to Madison.

“I still remember and think about the moment when our Discovery coach bus got to the spot on East Washington Avenue where you could see the (Capitol) dome; I just knew I wanted to work in that building,” Madden recalls.

Subsequent social studies classes built on that early enthusiasm. In high school, he took U.S. History and a college-level U.S. History class. He also took classes from Social Studies teacher Jamie Flagstad, with whom he is still in contact.

“She had an incredible ability to not only go through the material and concepts of the classes she taught, but made the connections to things actually happening in our lives and connect to current events.” Madden says. “Her humor and insistence on students paying attention to and understanding current events had an impact on everyone.”

He credits his “well-rounded” education in Sheboygan Falls with creating a strong foundation for his future career success. Teachers not only taught the curriculum but brought the lessons alive with their real life experiences. He remembers an English teacher who had published books and a business teacher who also ran a business outside of school.

He also appreciated the small size of the district.

“Leadership opportunities and educational opportunities were always in reach because of the size of Sheboygan Falls, and because of that and the success I found in it, I opted to go to a smaller college, rather than a large university,” said Madden who graduated from Edgewood College in Madison in 2014.

His interest in social studies translated into an interest in politics and he worked on several local, state and national political campaigns while he was in college. In January, 2015 he started work as a legislative aide for a newly elected state legislator whose campaign he had run the previous summer and fall.

He worked in the state Legislature for four years before taking a leave of absence to work on Evers’ campaign against Scott Walker in the fall of 2018. After Evers won the election, Madden shifted from his campaign staff to the transition team. After Evers took office, Madden worked as his legislative liaison before becoming director of legislative affairs last September.

His job is fast-paced and varied. As a member of the Governor’s senior staff, he monitors the activity of the Legislature and lobbies for the Governor’s legislative agenda. He briefs the Governor on legislation and, working with the other departments in the office, makes recommendations on whether the Governor should sign or veto legislation.

He is the primary point of contact with legislators and their aides and provides them with information and updates from the administration. He is with the Governor when he has meetings with legislators, introduces bills, and when he has bill signings. He also manages the Senate confirmation process of the Governor’s Cabinet level appointments as well as coordinates and monitors the activity of agency legislative liaisons across the administration.

“There is no such thing as a “normal” day, but every day is always an adventure,” Madden says.

In addition to his classes, Madden says one of the most influential experiences during his time in Sheboygan Falls was working on the high school student council for four years. In addition to making strong friendships, he recalls spearheading a variety of projects ranging from planning homecoming weeks to raising funds and pushing for a new marquee sign in front of the high school to negotiating “hot button” issues like student tailgates at home football games and dancing styles at school dances.

“While I never thought about it at the time, looking back now I know those situations and the leadership opportunities I had allowed me to acquire problem solving and people skills I use every day now,” Madden says.

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